Happy 14th birthday, Josh!

Our son Joshua turned 14 this week. Serious. If you look away for too long, your kids will be taller before you know it. They have their own tastes in music. They make their own decisions on who they want to hang out with, or don’t want to hang out with. They have their own sense of humor. Their own feelings.

But mostly, they get taller. And their clothes don’t fit.

I’m proud that he’s coming into his own, and slowly figuring things out. He had a rough start to middle school 3 years ago, but he’s quietly improved and figured out better strategies. He starts high school in September with all honors classes. He’s also a patrol leader in his Boy Scout Troop, and has met almost all of his Eagle Scout requirements. In the past year, he also became a black belt in Tae Kenpo.

To celebrate his birthday, we took him to his first concert at the beginning of the week. To close out the week, we took a bunch of his friends to see Captain Marvel on Friday evening, then to Uno Pizzeria & Grill for dinner. (Didn’t it used to be Pizzeria Uno?)

Posted in Family, News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

For his 14th birthday, we treated Josh to his first concert

Josh was turning 14 this week, and there is this band named Set It Off that he’s really into. Nums looked into it and found out that they would be performing at Union Transfer (a small venue / hall in Philadelphia) on Sunday March 3rd. She made a strong case that this was important to him, so we made it happen. There was a strong winter storm warning in effect, and I had a fire drill going on, but we still made it happen.

We met up with the Josephs earlier in the day to do an escape room and then lunch, and had considered staying all day in south Jersey. With the impending snow storm, I didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls to hang out at a mall until 11 PM at night. Which also wasn’t feasible. So we drove back home after lunch, chilled for 30 minutes, and then Josh and I took my wife’s SUV to drive back down to Philadelphia in the snow.

We lucked out, because although the weather was pretty annoying on the way down to PA, it wasn’t terrible. We made it with plenty of time for the show. I’ve never been to Union Transfer, and it’s basically standing room only. Really? I convinced a bouncer to let us stand in the bar area as I wasn’t comfortable with us standing so close up front next to massive speakers for 4 hours. There were apparently 3 opening bands (3?) performing before the main act, and we stood there for about 3 hours before Set It Off went on stage. We hung out listening to the 3 bands, and I kept an eye on the weather by looking out a nearby window.

After the concert, we walked back to the car and got back on the road. The roads were not bad, so I think we lucked out that the snow turned to rain earlier than planned. We got home late, and ate some leftover Wegman’s frozen pizza. Overall, Josh had a really good time, and he was very appreciative of the opportunity to be at the concert.

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

We escaped…. an escape room…. at Exit 4, which has different escape rooms…. in Glassboro

Big news, everyone! The Ipes and Josephs were somehow trapped in a police precinct, and we had 60 minutes to get into our own police station evidence locker. Don’t worry though. Using some ingenuity, cunning, skills, and 2 out of 3 clues, we were able to open the evidence locker and save the day with 10 minutes to spare.

To celebrate our successful escape from Exit 4, we had lunch at a Tex Mex place where the food was good, but the service was lousy. At least the company was good.

Posted in Family | Tagged , | Leave a comment

News flash! Lily wins her 2nd Spelling Bee with the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs 2019 District Spelling Bee

I gotta give the girl credit – she can be cool and calm under pressure. On Saturday Feb 23rd morning, we drove up to the headquarters for the
New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs 2019 district spelling bee.  There were about 15 kids (including Lily) who had won at various spelling bees organized by clubs within the “College District”, and now they were here to compete. 

I won’t give a detailed rundown, but I was very nervous for Lily each time when went up to the podium. I generally kept my head down, and only looked up when it was her turn. Every time, she was cool and collected. In the end, she won 1st place again. We couldn’t believe it! She won another gift card as a prize, we took pictures, and we went out to lunch at Panera. She will come back here to the headquarters in a few weeks for the this organization’s state level competition.

Posted in Family, News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Ipes stayed overnight in Manhattan to see Waitress on Broadway, but the Universe desperately tried to throw roadblocks every step of the way

I don’t know what our deal is. Nothing is ever simple. Is it us? Is it life? Is it random? Let me take a breath before I get into it.

For Christmas, we bought tickets for the four of us to see Waitress the Musical on Broadway. We’ve been taking advantage of the ‘Kids on Broadway’ promotion for a few years now in a row, and it’s been a fun experience. For the past two years, to make up for the invariably long day, we started staying overnight in Midtown. It’s easier than trying to come home by train exhausted by 1 AM.

The original plan was for me to come from the office, meet the family uptown, grab dinner at Serendipity 3 on the East Side, then hit the show, then go home by train.

Then we added back the hotel idea, and booked a room last minute at the Millennium hotel on Broadway.

Then I ended up WFH because how are we going to pick up the kids early and drop off the suitcase, and make a 5 PM dinner reservation?

Then I was working later than planned from home.

Then we decided trying to make the original dinner reservation was ludicrous and we decided to eat somewhere near the hotel.

Is everyone caught up?

Eventually caught a train, and I got a call about a mini fire drill. Somehow, I needed to get back to the office this evening after the show. We walked from Penn to the hotel, dropped off our stuff, sat for 5 minutes, then grabbed dinner downstairs at a restaurant in the lobby called
Bugis Street Brasserie and Bar. It featured Singaporean cuisine, with a smattering of American options in case people were scared of Asian food. We stuck with Singaporean dishes and it was all very tasty. I didn’t like that my one mixed drink was $19. That was a ripoff.

We made it to the show, and our seats were pretty good – left center. The show was entertaining for sure, but not deep enough mentally for my wife. We were surprised to learn that Joey McIntyre was in it! Really? As soon as the show was over, I left the family, ran to the hotel to grab my office badge ID, took the 3 train downtown, did my work, then came back to the hotel around midnight.

The next morning I was up early and gone around 6:45 AM so I could be in the office for a 7:30 AM global call.

The rest of the family slept in, grabbed breakfast somewhere nearby, and hung around some more. I met them for lunch at Serendipity 3 (apparently lunch reservations are easier to make than dinner reservations?), and the food was okay. I suppose the restaurant is popular for the tourists.

And that was it for our big crazy 24 hours in NY. I went back to the office, and they took a cab back to Penn and took the train home.

Posted in Family, News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We went to see The Book of Mormon on a Tuesday night

Gotta love the randomness of life sometimes. Well, the good random events. Not the type where you fracture your arm on the way to work.

Nums has had some interesting luck this past year with playing these lotteries for tickets to NY Broadway shows. She won tickets to Hamilton twice last year. In February, she won two tickets for a Tuesday night performance of The Book of Mormon. I think they were $30 a piece and we’ve been interested in seeing it for a while. 

After work, I hurried on up to Midtown to meet my wife for a quick dinner before the show at Dos Caminos. I was happy that she was up and about. She fractured her arm back in Jan, had surgery, and has been slowly on the mend. To see her out in New York was a nice thing to see again.

We had dinner at Dos Caminos around the corner (about a block) from the theater, then hoofed it in the freezing cold. Our seats were up in the Statler and Waldorf section, and I sat in what was basically a high chair, but I can’t complain too much. It was good to be out with my girl. 

The show itself was very entertaining and inappropriate for children. I was pretty tired but I got a 2nd wind during the 2nd act, and I felt better.

We took a cab afterwards to Penn, and took the train home.

My wife has an interesting story about her boot falling apart and finding nice pair of Sketchers in a 7th Ave souvenir shop, but I’ll leave that for her to regale you with that strange tale.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I finally got around to watching Incredibles 2 (2018) and it’s great!

Can you believe that I never saw Incredibles 2 in the theaters when it came out? The Ipes had planned to see it all together, but something came up, and I couldn’t make it at the time. It’s difficult to find free time these days, but I sat down over two days to watch the film on Netflix’s streaming service. 

The film features almost all of the original cast, despite the sequel coming out 14 years (?) later. And the film takes place immediately after the end of the first film with the Parr family fighting the Underminer. I thought it was a gorgeous film – it is clearly set in the early 1960’s, and I got a huge laugh catching scenes from Jonny Quest and Thunderbirds on the TV within the show.

For someone who didn’t particularly care for Finding Dory, I was pleasantly surprised to find this film just as good as the original. Good plot, great looking film, interesting characters. 

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lily and the Spelling Bee

I mentioned that Lily was attending her 2nd spelling bee ever while we were standing in line at Immigration and Customs in Newark Airport. Last year, she made it far but not to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. As we were traveling, my father-in-law agreed to take her to the spelling bee. This is the same spelling bee organized by the Greater Hightstown Juniorettes in our town every year, and Josh participated and won 1st and 3rd.

(Thanks for Cori and Sue for their work every year!) 

Anyway, there we all were, standing in line for 90+ minutes, with other people in attendance live-texting us all updates. The pressure was fierce, and we all looped around the line, updating each other. In the end, Lily came in 1st place. Pretty darn awesome.

She got her name in the local paper, and will be heading to the district competition on Feb 23rd, which will be held at the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs’ state headquarters in New Brunswick.

Posted in Family, News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Exciting home updating news – new TVs (and new devices) in interesting places

We had a $200 credit from Verizon / Samsung after upgrading our FiOS plan. It had sat around unused for many months because I didn’t know how to use it. We could use it towards a new TV, Chromebook, tablet, or some other Samsung product, but a new 65″ 4K TV was the only item that looked interesting. I decided on a Samsung 65″ n7100 series TV for the family room. It was fairly inexpensive compared to those $2000 or $3000 models, so I wasn’t sure if it was gonna be cheap looking. Old Joel would have turned his nose up and held out for the fancy shmancy model at quadruple the price. But we’ve had an inexpensive Vizio for 4 years now, and seriously, cheap can be good enough.

It took two weeks but it arrived mid January and I set it up in the Family Room. We moved the old 55″ Vizio to the Master Bedroom, where it will be wall mounted. The Samsung n7100 series is a decent low to mid range set. It has some apps (such as CBS All Access so I can watch Star Trek: Discovery) and overall setup was a breeze. UI interface was fine. We’re not using the built-in speakers so I was able to disable them. Josh was the only person to be incredulous about moving to a larger screen, but I think he likes it now.

While it’s a 4K TV, we’re not watching any 4K content yet. We are still using the Tivo Roamio Plus (because we can’t afford or make a strong case to upgrade to a brand new Tivo Bolt Vox at this time), and I don’t want to upgrade our Netflix plan to watch 4K content (would need the Bolt or some other additional streaming device as well.) For now, we will stick to regular HD, which looks good.

With the master bedroom all painted, we had the electricians come in price out installing new outlets, mounting the TV, running new Cat 6 network cables down to the basement, etc.  I also selected and picked up a Tivo Mini Vox (instead of adding another DVR or cable box), and a Samsung HW-MS650 3 channel soundbar. We went with a simple tilting wall mount.

The TV is up, and the network cables allow fast streaming between the main Tivo Roamio Plus in the family room, and streaming other content. We did install a floating shelf, but it doesn’t seem to fit the outlets, so we’re going to move the shelf up higher above the outlets. Unfortunately, while I measured the shelf, I didn’t know and account for the wooden board that the shelf would hang from, which limited the available space for the outlets.

I’ll post the shelf picture after we rehang shelf.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A couples-only extended weekend in Punta Cana for a friend’s 40th birthday

Our friend Sofia turned 40 this year and her husband Teo arranged a surprise extended weekend getaway (couples only) for family and friends. As much as we love a sunny getaway, we have a lot of expensive home projects in progress or planned, plus the big India trip this summer, and the logistical headaches of arranging care for the kids while we are away at the end of January. It would be fun, but fairly impractical.

Then again, for Nums’ 40th birthday, Teo and Sofia were the only ones who not came out, but came to party. So come hell or high water, we were gonna be there for our friend to repay the favor!

Before the trip, we made mad preparations. We arranged for my in-laws to watch the kids (staying at our house, or staying at their house), provided a detailed itinerary, helped Lily make a Pinewood Derby car for a Girl Scout event, helped Lily prepare for a district spelling bee, made arrangements for Josh to get to and from various events, etc. It was busy.

We would be away from Friday morning to Tuesday night. No snow in the forecast, and good weather in Punta Cana. I ended up staying up all night Thurs night packing and finishing up work tasks. What’s an all nighter to me, you know? We said goodbye to the kids, and got picked up by another couple at 5:15 AM. We all got to the airport around 6 AM, and went through a long baggage drop-off and security check-in processes. We ended up all surprising Sofia while in the security check-in line. I’m glad no one blew the surprise.

The flight itself went well. We arrived at the resort in the mid-afternoon and met Sofia’s brother and wife. We had a nice 1st floor room, and after resting briefly, we went to check out the pool.

There isn’t a big need for a detailed day-by-day summary. We all spent the next few days enjoying the sun and sand and pool and drinks. The weather really cooperated. While the Excellence El Carmen facilities and staff were good, I thought the food was mediocre. Also, the drinks were often lower shelf unless you went to specific bars on the property. I also hit up the fitness center twice, and it was much nicer than I expected.

We all had a very good time, making jokes, playing games, and relaxing. We also played a few games of beach volleyball, tried our hands at some archery, and watched the evening shows. Here are some select photos, and I’ll try to add more.

Eventually Tuesday came around, and it was time to go home. Our flight was delayed due to mechanical issues and weather, so getting home was significantly delayed. Once we got to Newark, there were massive delays at Immigration due to non-working computers and being severely short-staffed. It took us over 90 mins to make it through Immigration. During the interminable wait, we got live updates on Lily’s status at the 2019 Hightstown Juniorettes Spelling Bee. We eventually got home around 11 PM.

Posted in Trips | Tagged , | Leave a comment