City Girl n’ Skulls

walkingdeadreadyHere we are, living in the wilderness of Bear Mountain, about one mile from civilisation and the stress that comes with it.  Surviving in these surroundings takes skill and perseverance.  We are committed and we will adapt to our new life.

Thankfully we have the necessary means to survive; over-sized SUV (4×4 of course), Apple gadgets, 8 garden machines, misc. KitchenAid appliances and plenty of popcorn.

Cone on wilderness!  We can take you!

Or so we thought.

My lovely South American flower called me at work, in a frantic state, bursting out she had found a skeleton. More specifically, a human skull.  She demanded that I returned to our Casa del Muerte to inspect the remains of this unfortunate soul.

Strangely, all while looking to buy the house, and throughout the many visits, we never actually met the wife.  So, the remains could be that of his missing wife!?

Instead of calling Grissom and Co., she decided to call the local Sheriff Coltrane to inspect the remains.  What if the killer was still at large and maybe this was a living dead scenario. She simply had to get this crime of the century solved.

Not too sure how I could help with cleaning up a crime scene in our little forest.  I would either get attacked by a bear or Bambi, pee my pants and then man-handled by a skunk.

Anyway, our amazing trooper quickly arrived to inspect the crime scene, only to discover that the actual skull was the remains of Bambi’s relative.  Nothing on the cranium, beside a few teeth, may have resembled a human.

The happy law enforcement officer smirked at my wife, took a picture for his scrap-book or mug shot catalogue, and then quietly drove off.  No sirens :-)

It was a happy ending to a crime filled morning for my rebel wife.  She was shaken and stir-crazy after that experience.  She still demanded that I came home to save the damsel in distress, but I had to save the World at work … or so I think.

combat heelsA few days after this ordeal, the missus went for a stroll in the jungle again, in her combat high heels and new hunting dog (10 week old labrador), only to twist her ankle as she stepped into a groundhog tunnel, slipped, landed on the puppy who peed on itself out of fear.

I think it’s fair to state that her days of exploring are numbered.  The Disney forest we live in is not a place for a city girl.  She pretends to be the female version of Grylls, but it’s more like Miss Congeniality in the Jungle.  One day we can go trekking – trekking in the nearest super mall jungle.

Wish me luck as I’ll be the one who gets lost!

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Failing to connect to work

cisco-logoNothing worse than working from home and not being able to connect to the company network using Cisco AnyConnect.

I was recently working from home, but encountered really annoying error when launching Cisco AnyConnect “Failed to initialize connection subsystem”.  And, the help section in the Cisco desktop application is not helping – it’s actually slightly ridiculous.

Thanks for the internet I found the solution … thanks to one of the awesome tech dudes.

Here are the steps that were suggested and which resolved my connectivity challenge:

  1. Close the Cisco AnyConnect Window and the taskbar mini-icon
  2. Right click vpnui.exe in the “Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client” folder. (I have it in “C:\Program Files (x86)\Cisco\Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client\”
  3. Click on the “Run compatibility troubleshooter” button
  4. Choose “Try recommended settings”.
  5. The wizard suggests Windows 8 compatibility.
  6. Click “Test Program”.  This will open the program.
  7. Close
  8. Some people may need to repeat the above steps for vpnagent.exe. That is the local service that supports the client user interface.

To be honest, this only took a few minutes and I was able to work again.  And, I believe this is now added to Windows 8.1 patch.

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…and they all cried

moving-fishThe realization of our move to another ZIP code has come to fruition, as the kids had their last day of school (now old school) and had to mentally prepare to meet a bunch of new kids Monday morning.

We had tried to negotiate with the school about keeping the kids at the school until end of the school year, for the simple reasons of stability.  And, the fact that we were driving them to/from school every day.  Our son has Down Syndrome and for us this move could potentially regress his development, and surely it would in the child’s best interest to stay in the known environment.

Yes, we know we moved to another ZIP code and that this normally involves moving kids to a new school unless you are willing to pay for tuition.  But, we wanted to do what was right for the kids.

Anyway, this post is not about the educational battle, but the fact that we all cried!

My wife had organized enough snacks to feed a small village and had scheduled a farewell party with the teachers.  There were hugs, presents, dancing, more hugs, friends departing each other, contact details being shared – it was a realization that we were part of the community after all.

Parents were hugging us too, and even the teachers were getting emotional.  After all, we have some great kids and have been with the school for over 3.5 years.  Kids had participated in school sports, activities and birthday parties.  It has been an awesome experience to be part of that community.

educationAs we were getting ready to pack the car, our son’s aid (Mr. T) walked our son to car.  It was clear that he was affected by this departure.  They had developed a bond beyond aid/student, and become close as brothers.  He had bought him some awesome shoes.  Some days they had dressed alike and they had so much fun together.  He alone has been the reason we wanted to stay at the school, and he can take full credit for the amazing development of our son.  Of course the other teachers did an awesome job too, but this relationship was special.

The aid wants to be part of Christian’s life going forward.  It was just not something he said.  We could tell he meant it.  I even heard him say to my son “I’ll be here for you forever.  You have taught me more about life than anyone”.

crying-manDude!  that made me bloody emotional, which is awkward when I want to have a tough appearance with my ginger full beard and cool shades.  A tear rolled down my cheeks, but I caught before anyone noticed.

Now a chapter has been closed, but we start writing a new book.  It’ll be awesome to meet all the new people and make new friends (again!).  The kids will have an amazing experience and it will be a positive opportunity for our son.

It is our responsibility as parents to stay in touch with the friends we made, and encourage our kids to feed those relationships too.  They made friends for life.

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Rise of Coco

coco2I swore 2 years ago that, when our male Labrador passed over the rainbow bridge, we would not replace him and that we would not get any other dog when our St Bernard dies either.

It’s a lot of responsibility to have a dog(s), and you are bound to them all the time.  They depend on you.  This restricts you from doing stuff too spontaneously, as you have to plan ahead with a dog sitting and that’ll cost you extra.

Being the head of the family, I succumbed to my family’s constant pressure and we invested in a new dog.  It takes a big man to admit defeat and I’m not a big man :-)  I’m under the thumb just like any other dad / husband in the World.

Here’s the insane bit, as if getting a new dog wasn’t crazy enough.  We drove 3 hours to see and pick the dog from the litter, then 3 hours back.  And, bring on asylum insane, we did the same trip two weeks later to pick up the puppy.

Drumroll …. and we love her :-)

She was really well-behaved the first evening.  It took her a little time to sniff the house, considering she lived in a breeding box (4′ x 4′) before, and now she has 2700 sq. feet to cover.

We decided to place her in a dog kennel for the night, with blankets, and she was snoring away … at least until 2am.  At that point she woke up and realized she was in a strange place, with strange smells.

It was as if she screamed “Why am I in this prison?  I did not chew the shoe!  I need my mum!  I’m innocent of whatever crimes I’ve committed.  Why this cruelty?

I woke up to the intense winning and pushed my wife out of bed.  She had promised to look after the puppy, with our now 11-year-old daughter, and she stumbled down the stairs to be with the puppy.  I could get some more sleep :-)

To my amazement, she’s actually well-behaved.  I have to say that as she’s our dog.  But, she eats well, sleeps better and is getting a lot of exercise from chasing the St Bernard.

The 9-year-old St Bernard is shell-shocked with the arrival of this little chocolate-colored labrador, who chases her tale and bites her paws.  She’s slightly apprehensive about letting the puppy cuddle up with her, and not too sure how to play with such a small thingy.

She has already bonded with the kids, especially my son, and is chewing their shirts and socks, much to the amusement of the kids.

It’ll be fine.  It’ll take some time for the family to adjust, but we love her already.

Just one minor problem – she has already attempted to steal my corner on the family sofa!

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Surviving the Party

diy birthdayYou want to make your child’s birthday special, no matter how old or young they might turn.  My wife and I are no different.  However, we also have a budget and don’t just splash out on insane Sweet 11th kit; professional dancers, DJ, party decoration, catering, etc.

Nope – we go the DIY family realistic budget route instead, doing a lot of the activities and food ourselves.  We generally stay away from crafting our own decorations, mainly because I tend to cut the pieces too small or get frustrated and tear them all up again!

Our daughter recently turned 11 and as she decided to invite her closest friends over for a sleepover.  I assumed it would be 2 girls, but somehow we ended up having 5 girls volunteering to celebrate our daughter.

Not a big problem really.  We have a nice big basement, and we simply needed to prepare it by getting rid of the biggest spiders and tidy up the toys that had been scattered around by our 4-year-old wonder kid.

  • Outdoor Christmas lights does wonders to any room
  • Party City has some good cheap paper decorations
  • Christmas table-cloth looks good on any occasion
  • Praise the plastic cup and paper plate inventors
  • iMac in the corner pumping out Now! 53 tracks, with screen saver, kick-starts any pre-teen birthday party

Within a few hours, the basement looked pretty awesome if I had to say it myself.  All we needed now was the screaming pre-teen girl invasion.

What do you feed a horde of 5th grader girls?  Easy guys!

Doritos, Cheesy Puffs, Brownies and chicken & beef fajita party.

Feeding-FrenzyIt turns out that the snacks were extremely popular, and within seconds of putting the bowls on the table, a hurricane of fingers started to dig into the snacks – picking the bowls clean, and asking for more.  I have been to the reptile section in the zoo seeing alligators rip into their meat lunch, but nothing compares to pre-teen feeding frenzy.

The girls headed back into the basement after dinner, and started to listen to strange YouTube video/songs, screaming about cute kittens, and singing along to the new Annie movie.  It was awesome to see how these girls had so much fun, but scary that I could not hear anything for several minutes after emerging from the basement.

That evening we had our very first outdoor camp fire with the girls, while roasting marshmallows.  We had to keep feeding the sugar rush and the girls loved sitting outside chatting (giggling) about awkward potential boyfriends – or just talking about who the other girls liked.

Bedtime was approaching, mine that is, and I was hoping the girls would turn down the music humming from the basement.  My eyelids were getting heavy when relaxing on the sofa, and it was only. 10.30pm.

I’m not too sure when the girls finally collapsed, but I do know that my wife was awoken around 1am by two girls suddenly standing in our bedroom saying they couldn’t sleep.  I’m confined my wife thought it was the ghost from ‘The Ring’ standing in our bedroom, and I’m sure she screamed, but I slept right through that event.

Another early morning, as I had to prepare breakfast for the masses, consisting of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and juices.  Sounds easy, but not when you have to feed an army of kids.

Then they went hiking in our little forest and visited the neighbor’s farm, bringing back all kinds of lovely smelling animal sent and poo footprints on the tile floor.  Oh well, they had so much fun and that’s what matters the most.  I had warned all the girls that they might step in dog poo, and to be careful, but somehow that advise was completely ignored within a few minutes.

I think they have agreed to make this a regular event, so have to prepare mentally for the next sleepover party.


Happy birthday to my lovely daughter!  Hope you enjoyed your Bday party.  Your parents (us) survived another pre-teen invasion :-)

… I’m too old for this shit!

scavenging

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World Down Syndrome Day 2015

Every year the World celebrates Down Syndrome, generating awareness for the wonderful group of individuals that we are blessed sharing the World with.

To this day, people with Down Syndrome have special powers – powers to spread love and happiness to everyone who they get in touch with.  They smile, cherish life and adore anybody who wants to be their friend.

Some people still mock them and call them names, but it’s just out of ignorance.

My beautiful wife helps spread awareness about people with special needs, so you should really visit her Facebook page.  It’s also a tribute to my amazing son, Christian, who was born with an extra chromosome.

Yes, I need to say no a few extra times when he’s misbehaving, but so did my dad to me. He has come such a long way in a short time, especially since arriving in the US where he gets an awesome service and support in the school.  His aid (Mr. T) is absolutely amazing with my son, and they have bonded like brothers.  This has resulted in a phenomenal improvement in his abilities to interact and communicate.

What’s even more magical, as a parent to a special needs kid, is that he has friends in school.  Kids walk up to him and give him high five, shout hi when they see him and he has play dates with class mates.  It’s wonderful as a parent to see how well he’s accepted by his peers.  They love him too.

Here’s a set of excellent images my wife created to honour our son :-)

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Summer Time, Farts & Eagles

snowdropSummer time arrived during the early morning 8th of March, year of the lord 2015.

Nothing special really.  It has happened so many times before, but something special does come along with moving clocks forward.

I have to admit it might be a little difficult to accept summer is coming, considering we still have 2 feet (or more) of snow all over.  It’ll take a long time to melt, but let’s stay positive.

Longer days - More sunshine (we hope) -
Heating up - Dusting off garden furniture -
Uncover the trusted BBQ - Sound of motorcycles -
Melting snow - Snowdrop flowers - Cleaning

But for me this day was super special.  I got to spend it with my youngest of the three.  Just her and I hanging out while the rest of the gang got to enjoy ‘Aladdin‘ on Broadway.

You might say “where’s the justice in that!?” as surely the family should all go to Broadway.  We would love to go all of us, but sometimes young kids are not permitted to attend the theater and some times we have to consider ticket prices :-)

Our day started with kicking the gang out of the house, and then the adventures really started.  We had already agreed, her and I, that we would bake cakes (plural) and then fart in all the rooms, including on mum’s pillow.  The plans had been plotted, now it was just a matter of putting them into action.

We baked two massive cakes: chocolate cake and apple cake (mormon’s æblekage).  The little one gets so excited when she gets to mix all the ingredients and use the hand mixer.  I love seeing her smile, laugh and try out her baking skills.  It doesn’t matter that we have flour, eggs, sugar, and used utensils all over the kitchen.  We have fun at that’s what matter, and afterwards she gets to lick the dough off the whisks.

The warm sweet smell filled the rooms and while we were waiting we started to watch “The Hobbit“.  It’s never too early to start seeing these awesome movies.

As soon as the cakes were ready, we started sampling our creations.  First chocolate, then apple cake, closed supported by a nice glass of cold milk.  Excellent choice as lunch time meal.  I’m sure the missus would prefer a more appropriate selection but she’s not here to ‘guide’ us down the correct path.

She was totally absorbed by the movie, loving the battles with goblins, running across Middle Earth landscapes and then screamed when the eagles arrived to rescue the group of dwarves, hobbit and wizard.  She slowly turned to me and said “dad, you are big enough to ride eagles too.  Can I ride with you?”  Then she gave me a big hobbit hug.

Man, I love these moments where you can just relax with your child.  Smile together. Fart together.  Generally do some father-daughter bonding.

Too often we parents are withdrawn in daily routines, discussing stupid work related events, worried about money and devote little time to our kids.  Weekends are created to do just that.

I strongly encourage parents to set aside time with their kids.  It doesn’t have to cost anything and you can spend time together at the house playing games, cooking, baking, watching movies and just fart.

Happy summer time kick off.  Let’s get ready for good times ahead!

summertime

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Traffic is Evil

Road-RageTraffic!  The Devil’s work.  The path to Zen and one of the many Catholic trials.  Once you conquer the road rage you are on the path to eternal glory.  Or at least that what we should believe instead of hammering frantically at the wheel or stupidly honk the horn hoping that the traffic will magically disperse.  Only your horn can provide the guidance the other drivers need to open up and let you pass.  It is the Devil’s work!

Most people get stuck in traffic at various times, and at times when you least need to get delayed.  Traffic is evil!  It screws with your well laid plans, whether these are business plans or romantic dates with your partner.

Funnily enough, people have different interpretations of what traffic actually means.  It all depends where they live and which areas they have visited.

Take my dad (bless his soul).  We are from a tiny spot in the picturesque Danish rural harbor village, where traffic is measured in how many people you can wave to when stuck at the local traffic light.  And, there are not many traffic lights to get stuck at, but you do tend to know all people who drives around.

One time I was visiting my parents, my dad and I had to go grocery shopping.  This is when I lived in Dublin (Ireland), where the M50 is a well-known car park.  Anyway, on our way to the local market, we got caught by the red light, with about 12 cars in front of us.  My dad instantly broke into cursing, blaming the economy for excessive cars on the roads, the European influence on rural Denmark and that my mum would be utterly upset with this delay.  After a pain staking 7 minutes we finally cleared the traffic light and parked at the super market.

I subsequently tried to explain to my dad that this was nothing compared to the M50 / Dublin city traffic.  It would take me an hour to drive 10 miles to work, each way, going about 20mph at top speed.

nyc_trafficWithin a few months my parents visited Dublin, which fueled pure road rage in my dad.  I’ve seen him upset before, but this was Saddam Hussein rage.  He was ready to nuke East coast of Ireland, and would happily live in the nuclear winter that follows just to avoid traffic like this ever again.  Needless to say we had a few pints when we finally made it back to the house and WALKED down to the local pub to watch Chelsea beat Arsenal (Gunners) – what a day!

Today we live close to New York City.  Population = 8.4 million souls … almost double size of Denmark’s entire population.  As a result, traffic is bedlam.  Sorry, let me rephrase that. Traffic is absolutely shite.  Please consider that this is the city that never sleeps, so there’s always traffic.  However, on the few occasions my wife and I went on date night to the city, we’ve got stuck in traffic.

  1. If/Then show on broadway – it took us almost three hours to snail through 6 miles down to Broadway, which resulted in us missing dinner, and had to settle for a lovely drive muffin as the door opened to the show
  2. Black Keys (Barclay Center, Brooklyn) – traffic prevented us from enjoying a romantic dinner, but thanks to “awesome” chicken at Barclay Center
  3. Ed Kowalczyk (City Winery) – we had ‘meet ‘n greet’ tickets, but missed the opportunity to meet the dude himself, but did have lovely Peruvian dinner

My dad is most likely sitting in the sky cursing, much to the amusement of St. Peter, blaming anything from Obamacare to Siberian Northern Lights that the traffic is not flowing well, almost causing his son’s (me) to miss out on romantic times with his beautiful wife.

Take care of each other.  Don’t let traffic bring out your bed side.  Be Zen. Be happy and avoid using the horn … it only brings more anger.  Anger leads to the dark side :-)

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Blowing Snow

Much to the amusement of some NSA snooper, the title of this post has nothing to do with doing a few lines on a mirror in the back room of the Area Nightclub in NYC in the mid 80′s.  I’m obviously way too young for having partied in that nightclub, but I’m certain it was fulfilled nights.

Anyway, back to the actual point of this story, which does not involve massive amounts of coke, while Tony Montana shouts “say ‘hello to my little friend!

snow tunnel

Commuter Tunnel

As a matter of fact, this post involves large quantities of snow that suddenly got dropped on the North East of the US recently, which shouldn’t really surprise many people given we are in the middle of the winter.

I think what shocked people the most was the amount of snow we received during the last 4-6 weeks.  As much as one foot dropped over night one weekend alone.

Imagine how we felt, being half Irish, when the most snow we’ve seen in the past decade (before moving to the US) was about an inch, and then entire country shut down.  At first the snow was wonderful and had a fairy tale feel to it.  Once a thick layer of snow had covered the area, it muffled all sounds.  I felt like running into the snow-covered landscape in my bathing rope, twirling while singing “Let it go!”.  Dropping into the snow making snow angels and build a snow fortress.  All the stuff any grown man was longing to do – right?!

Alarm bells should’ve gone off when we bought the house some months ago, and the owner proudly said he was leaving the industrial sized snowblower with the house.  He was moving to Florida and had absolutely no use for it.  We have an amazing long driveway, just short of 332 feet, times two as we actually have two roads leading to the house.

I was excited about the possibility that I would be operating my very own snow blower and got dressed for battling the snow; the day after we received the foot of snow.  The beast jumped into life and I slowly started the caterpillar tracks and blower.  It was super hungry and spewed snow well into the forest, clearing the driveway.  Let me tell you, it still takes a long time to clear a 320+ feet driveway.  And, despite having a monster snow blower, it is still a lot of hard work.  Sweat was running down my forehead, turning into ice crystals and I had icecaps forming in my beard.  Damn you Queen Elsa!

2 hours later, 4 lbs lighter and sweat soaked, the job was completed.  Like any man and husband, I turned around, placed my hands on my hips and looked proudly down my 320+ feet cleared driveway.  Awesome!  Kudos to me and my machine.  Surely my wife would be equally proud.

…then it started to snow again!

This whole “Frozen‘ obsession has to stop.  Even the weather Gods are joining this strange trend and have covered Boston in a new ice age.  When will this madness end?

frozen-car

No parking!

Hope you are staying warm!

I’m preparing for another snowmaggedon in late February, and early March, as Phil the fecking Groundhog had predicted another six weeks of ‘Day After Tomorrow‘ syndrome.  It still baffles me to think that we rely on a groundhog to predict winter these days, but given the recent Y2K of weather mis-predictions, it’s probably a safer bet.

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Smooth Criminal – Elco style

Being the proud owner of a power beast, Chevy El Camino ’82  is an awesome experience.  You have a true muscle car hidden in the shell of a pick-up truck wannabe chassis.  People who sees you driving this beast might roll their eyes, smirk at the ugliness, and even question its existence.

Little do they know that under the hood, which is spacious enough to hide a full-grown body, sits an awesome V8 5l 305 power engine, generating about 150 horsepower.  Enough to challenge most cars anywhere … except if the roads are a little wet as that causes unnecessary wheel spins :-)  Granted fuel consumption is rather ridiculous, with about 10-12 mpg and a 12 gallon tank.  So, for commuting 20 miles each way it’s not an ideal vehicle, but I love it.

I use this beast to bring the kids to school every morning.  They are a little intimidated by the sound of the engine, perhaps a little embarrassed too, but largely accept their mode of transportation.

If you’ve seen ‘Uncle Buck’ then you would remember his old banger, and the amount of exhaust fumes it generated.  Well most V8 engines does produce larger amount of smoke, so when I pull in at the local elementary school to drop kids off most people cover their noses.  Not cool when the car in front of me is the Tesla car which doesn’t even have an exhaust.

The other morning when driving down the local country road, the local sheriff obviously wanted to check out my wheels.  I had barely passed the spot where he was parked, when he floored his cruiser and came in behind me.  He turned on the Christmas lights and pointed at me to pull over.

It was my first time to get pulled over by the cops, since I was pulled over for suspected car theft 20 years ago.  Just because I had long hair didn’t mean I stole the nice car I was driving!  However, it wasn’t my first encounter with the law – I’m a rebel and you know it!

Having just moved to another state, my license plates were brand new, vehicle registration and inspection stickers temporary and my license was also a print-out.  Something tells me the trooper was not impressed with the pieces of paper I shared with him.  He looked down on the paper pile and then back at me, then at the kids.

“I assume the kids have seat belts on?”

“Of course officer, I’m a responsible parent!  I might drive a shitty old banger, but safety comes first”.

He went back to his cruiser, obviously to triple check my criminal past and to see if my car had been part in a drive by at some point.  Everything came back all clear.  Then he handed me my papers back and told me I was clear to go.

Just because Sheriff Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace had pulled me over, on a school run morning, he had now screwed up my tight schedule.  I kicked the V8 engine into drive and left the cop surrounded in a vail of smoke while I jolted down the country road towards the school.

Good thing is, I didn’t get a ticket – just a friendly nod from the local sheriff :-)

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