Friday, November 26, 2010

R.I.P. Uncle Joe

During the early hours of this morning, my Uncle Joe passed away peacefully. Uncle Joe had been in declining health recently, and the years leading up to this one had not been easy ones for his health either. The news of late had not been good, and we all held our breath, waiting for the day we would get the call.

Joe Greco was my father's youngest sibling, with my father being the oldest and my Aunt Carol (Auntie) the "rose between two thorns." He always had such a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his face. He was a devoted father and brother, and gave service to the Massena Police Department and the Volunteer Fire Department for many years. Our family was always very close, and his brother and sister were his best friends. For all of us, we feel a piece of us has died with Uncle Joe.

Although Uncle Joe will never pull another penny from my ear, I will cherish my memories of him for the rest of my days. Rest in peace, Uncle Joe, and I hope you are having a wonderful time with Nonnie, Poo Poo, Dad, Uncle Duff, and all those who went before.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Last night I randomly started calling Jasper "'Bear." I don't know why. Maybe I just needed to shake things up a little. Or maybe it's because when he lays on the floor he stretches and flattens out like a bearskin rug. Perhaps it's his manly fluffiness.

Anyway, it's not catching on and he just looks confused.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Yearly Christmas Card Picture Challenge=VICTORY!

I'm happy to report that I have already ordered, received, stuff, sealed and addressed our Christmas cards for this year. It's not as ambitious as it sounds. Let me explain...

Around the beginning of November each year I start to fret about taking the ever-elusive Christmas pictures of the kids (and, for the last several years, the dog) for our yearly missive, and it's never easy. Well, I should say, it's easy with two of the subjects (Annalisse and Jasper) and not easy or pleasant with Cameron. He spends endless shots ruining the pictures with weird faces and far away glances. Last year, think we took upwards of 50 pictures to get the one we finally used, and that was only achieved after several threats. Every year I tell him, "Cam, I've done a picture Christmas card since the year you were born, and XXXX WON'T be the year without a Baker family card!" Can you imagine this exercise without digital photography?!

This year, I decided to simply scan three separate pictures and put those into the card. When I caught on to this idea, I quickly decided on the kids' pictures, and had Annalisse take an appropriate picture of Jasper. Then, being ON FIRE with the idea, I ordered them. Of course, when I received them I had to sit right down and address them, and, well, you get the picture. I think the recipients of this year's card will be pleased - I think its' one of the best ones ever!

I know that our friends and family, especially those across the miles, enjoys seeing how the kids are growing up in the same way I love to receive their cards. It's a little strange to think about how old the kids are getting and that one of these years might actually be the last year for the picture card. It's also really fun to look back at all the cards over the years. When I get them each year I put one aside for each kid's "memory book" so that someday THEY WILL appreciate their mother's effort and persistance, even though trying to get "get the shot" has caused more than a couple gray hairs from year to year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Father's NYC

I took another quick trip to the Big Apple this week (well, technically, Long Island, but close), and whenever I get any where near NYC I am immediately transported back to my childhood memories of New York - a place I had not even visited until last year. This is the New York as seen through the eyes of my father, who had a great affinity for the city but rarely visited. I grew up reading the Daily News every day, which was later joined by the NY Post, and my father constantly watched the station that broadcast NYC commercials and, most likely, the Yankee games. Come to think of it, that's mainly what he listened to on the radio, also.

I think the reason I love the musical Evita, starring Patti LuPone, is because of the commercial for the Broadway play, which also starred Mandy Patinkn, and ran in the late 70s/early 80s. It's a classic, with Patti LuPone singing "Just a little touch of, just a little touch of, just a little touch of star quality!" Another classic commercial that was popular during that time was the Milford Plaza advertisement. When I was in NYC last year I saw the Milford Plaza, and, of course, the jingle sprang to mind.

My father's New York City was a gritty place, not unlike the urban setting of "All in the Family," the hit 70s sitcom set in the Astoria section of Queens. For those of us from a small town, NYC was a mysterious place, much like the world depicted in "All in the Family," the Daily News, and on the NYC TV station. For me, these things, were, and continue to be, New York. When I go there I feel a very strong connection with my father, as he always kept up with the news and, of course, his beloved Yankees.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Far Away February

Is it too late to start thinking about going someplace warm for February break? Of course, I can't afford that, but I sure feel like I need it. I knew I was a goner when I received the AAA magazine in the mail and it featured an amazing picture of the El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico on the cover. I was immediately drawn to it, and went online to see how much it would cost. Needless to say, that dream was dashed fairly quickly. I have a quick weekend trip to Ft. Lauderdale to look forward to in January (courtesy of my professional association) and Las Vegas again in July. But, I was envisioning something a little more restful, maybe a girl's weekend with my sister(s) and Annalisse (and my niece if she could make it) as Mark is not as keen on winter getaways as as I am.

(HINT HINT, sisters.)

With these short, dark days, I know I'll need something to get through the winter, like sunshine and sand and surf. Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Turn the Page (Orr)

The five-days-a-week practices are done. We can eat dinner at a leisurely pace again. The kids can sleep in on (most) Saturdays. We escaped without freezing rain and snowing...although the last few regattas hovered around a chilly 45 degrees. In other words:


Hurray! At last! The kids have been at it since the last week in August, day in and day out, rain or shine (or darkness). Needless to say, everyone is relieved and looking forward to the break.

At today's last fall season regatta, Pittsford's "Pull the Plug," each of the kids won a silver medal, and Cam was just four seconds away from winning two. That was a nice finish for him since he hadn't taken home a medal all season. It was a nice way to end this VERY LONG SEASON.

Things will start up again at the end of February with winter training, which will take us through the official start to the spring season in early April. At this point, Annalisse is not planning to participate in winter training as there is not a lot for the coxswains to do, and she is thinking of trying out for the spring play. This was a rough season for her - she was not feeling really motivated and a lot of the friends she joined with dropped out (although she's never really at a loss for friends...). So, we'll see what spring brings. She claims she'll do spring season, but not fall. Time will tell.

In the meantime, we'll just enjoy our down time and the lack of rushing in the evenings that comes with it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea

What? Why are you looking at me that way? You had to know it would be a while between blog posts since I explained in my last post that I was going to be traveling...besides, you actually have to be home to write a blog (unless you take your computer with you, which I didn't). I am not being defensive!

So, I'm back at it after a whirlwind week-and-a-half of travel. From Chicago and back, to Portland and back, with an overnight in Saratoga Springs thrown in there there for good measure. Boy, am I sick of packing and unpacking. I don't know how truly frequent travelers do it. One of my colleagues and good friend, Josh, recruits for SU's MBA program, and he's gone probably more than 75% of the time, on the road at recruitment fairs and college and visits and such. It's really hard on him, but to his credit he's only 30 and doesn't have any kids. He probably has a little more stamina than I do. Anyway...
In spite of the travel fatigue, both trips were great. This was my second time to Chicago, and my impression of that city gets better and better with every visit. This time I stayed near the lakefront (Lake Michigan), and it was absolutely beautiful - the scenery and the weather, both. I stayed in a lovely old hotel downtown called The Palmer House, and it was located near a lot of the colleges, The Chicago Institute of Art, and the funky/artsy section of the city. I spent some time walking along the lakefront, and nearby was the Buckingham Fountain, made famous in the opening scene of Fox's '90s hit "Married with Children." The architecture in Chicago is absolutely amazing, and I would love to spend more time there in the near future. The trip from Rochester is a manageable hour-and-a-half, so it's definitely a possibility for a family weekend getaway.

After spending the weekend in Chicago, I unpacked and repacked for my trip to Portland. I left at the ungodly hour of 6:10am, but that allowed me to get in mid-day. Mark's cousin, Kara, picked me up at the airport, and, after a brief stop at her house, we grabbed some lunch and did some sight seeing. It was so nice spending time with Kara. We tried to determine the last time we had seen each other, and figured it may have been as many as 20 years ago at her brother's wedding. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, though, we've been able to reconnect and get to know each other again.

Kara has lived in the Portland area for some 15 years, and she shares a 5-year old daughter, Piper, with her former partner, Heather. Lucky for us (me) we got a chance to spend a lot of time with Piper, who is incredibly cute and very smart. She's a little firecracker! On Thursday, before I had to head to Portland State University for the grad fair, Kara, Piper, Kara's roommate, Jessica, and I started out early and headed up Mt. Hood to the Timberline Lodge, the exterior of which was used for Stephen King's (Stanley Kubrick's version) The Shining. That was an extremely cool experience, considering that Mark and I had visited the real hotel that The Shining was based on two years ago during our trip to Colorado.

Actually, it was not only a cool experience, it was a COLD experience as Mt. Hood was experiencing a snow storm during our visit. I could not wait to get down the mountain as I am definitely not ready for dark, cold, wet, snow just yet! But, it was a lot of fun just the same!! On the way back to Portland we meandered back by a beautiful scenic route through the mountains, and stopped in the really cute little town of Hood River for a coffee break and some shopping. Amazingly, just over the Columbia River, a stone's throw away, was Washington State. Pretty cool!

After a long day of travel, I arrived home on Friday night to once again unpack and repack for our overnight to Saratoga for the Head of the Fish Regatta. THANK GOD THE WEATHER WAS NICE THIS YEAR. Sure, it was cold, but that I can take. I'm not great at math, but I do know this:

Cold+Rain+Snow=FROZEN HELL

So we piled on the layers and made the best of it. The kids didn't make out too well...Annalisse would not even discuss how she did, and apparently Cam's boat came in 4th out of about 15, which was not too bad. I feel very bad for Cameron as he's displayed great persistence and sportsmanship this fall, but has not wSave as Drafton a medal. We have one more regatta for this season: Sunday's "Pull the Plug" regatta in Pittsford. Maybe they'll pull off a win, yet.
Last night was the first night in recent memory that I got into my PJs and hung around the house. It was heaven! I was even inspired to bake cookies. I suppose it takes a couple of weeks like I've had lately to help me appreciate the quiet time at home.