MBTA Adventures: Boarding the Crazy Train

For those of you who don’t know, I have a new job as of a month ago. I’m very excited and I love it, but it’s in downtown Boston. That means the biggest change for me is my commute, which necessitates me taking the MBTA train into the city every day.

The MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) is commonly referred to as the “T,” but that’s mainly for the subway. I take the commuter rail, which connects the suburbs to the Hub of the Universe that is Boston. I’ve been doing it for a month now and let me tell you — it is a whole different universe than what I’m used to.

I’m learning train etiquette such as don’t sit next to someone while there are still empty seats to be had. And don’t EVER sit in the middle of the 3-person seats when there’s still an empty spot in the 2-seat row. With 45 minutes to kill on my way into the city, there are a variety of options for people. Some work on laptops and the train’s spotty WiFi. Others listen to music or podcasts, the purists read books, and somehow a certain percentage of the population manages to sleep in public.

I’ve had strange conversations with strangers, I’ve sat next to a snoring giant, I’ve had people refuse to take their bags off empty seats, and I sat behind one guy who inexplicably smelled like a Caesar salad (no one was eating a Caesar salad on board the train). But in my short month-long stint, I’ve never run into someone quite like the woman sitting behind me last night.

I’m not sure what she was on and, much to everyone’s chagrin, I can’t tell you what she looked like. She was a couple of seats behind me and I didn’t look back because I felt it would’ve spoiled the magic, but she gave me the most entertaining 45 minutes of my commuting life. My wife asked me if I made it all up, but quite honestly, I’m not this imaginative.

I captured it in Facebook updates and while I fully admit I was struggling to hear everything, the following is a running tally of the snippets I could make out. Enjoy. And stay tuned, because “People on the Train” might become a recurring series.

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Thank you, people of the MBTA commuter rail. It’s hard coming up with content as a writer, but I imagine I’ll never be in short supply now.

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What It’s Like Having Three Kids

Photo by Meri Belanger of Sootie Studios.
Photo by Laura Fiorillo of Family Tree Photography.

Imagine you’re wrestling an alligator with your bare hands while also trying to catch a monkey who is just out of reach and throwing feces at you. Then you’re asked to simultaneously tame a lion.

I’ve only been a father of three for six weeks, but this is the most apt comparison I can think of when describing what it’s like to raise a trio of children.

The jungle metaphor is overplayed, for sure, but it has persevered through the years for a reason — there’s truth at the heart of it. Granted, the “animals” involved are pretty damn terrific and the danger they pose is dwarfed by the cuteness they exude, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is hard.

Two was difficult. Three is HARD.

Two meant a divide and conquer mentality. Three means being outnumbered and out-manned at all times. Two meant we could still play man-to-man. Three means zone and the dreaded Prevent defense. And even though Tommy can’t talk, it seems he’s been able to telepathically communicate certain commandments to his older brothers, which have been mutually agreed upon.

  1. There shall be no time of day during which all three children sleep simultaneously
  2. No more than two brothers can be in a good mood at the same time
  3. One of the three must always complain of hunger or thirst at all times
  4. Someone must always be crying out for attention
  5. None shall allow either parent to defecate alone behind closed doors

But lest you think this is some sort of unbearable task or prison sentence, allow me to disabuse you of that notion posthaste.

This is awesome.

I love being a dad. Now multiply that love by three and you have my current level of elation. And gratitude, since I never forget this road we traveled was not easy and seldom smooth. So while MJ and I are exhausted zombies who wake up at all hours of the night, can barely keep our eyes open during the day, and have forgotten what it’s like to poop without a captive audience, we’re also two very lucky and happy people.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it’s so easy to embark on journeys you know are worthwhile.

We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but it didn’t matter. Now, at the young age of six weeks, Tommy makes us feel like he’s been here all along and both MJ and I can’t imagine life any other way. Three boys bring a certain amount of chaos to our lives, but what’s life without some commotion?

Screaming jags eventually cease and give way to the rhythmic rising and falling of tiny chests. What was just the bane of your existence mere minutes ago becomes the source of all your peace in an instant. Bedtime kisses between brothers, however fleeting the moment, live on for time eternal.


It’s hard, yet so easy. And so worth it.

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The Real Reason The Walking Dead Scares Me


The Walking Dead terrifies me, but not for the reasons you’d think.

It’s Halloween and scary movies/TV shows are all anyone is watching.  AMC’s The Walking Dead (available on Netflix) tops that list for many because it is a thrilling epic involving hordes of flesh-eating zombies that are quickly taking over the world and snuffing out the last bits of humanity that remain. And to make matters worse, some of the people untainted by the mystery plague zombifying the world have turned into violent sociopaths hellbent on killing everyone they meet.

But while there have been countless gut-wrenching death scenes (too often involving our most beloved characters) featuring people being ripped apart by the undead, zombies and gore don’t scare me.

I’m most horrified by the idea of being a parent in a climate of hopelessness.

Rick Grimes leads a band of misfits through the ongoing apocalypse, but first and foremost he has to worry about his teenage son Carl and his toddler Judith. Being exposed to that unyielding and unsafe environment is bad enough, but having to worry about your kids in it? It’s the most terrifying thing I can think of.

Maybe it scares me more these days because sometimes it feels like we’re not so far removed from The Walking Dead.

If you’re a news junkie like I am, it’s difficult sometimes to read the headlines every day and not wonder if bringing three kids into this world is an act of cruelty. Kids are shot to death in schools and in accidents after getting a hold of loaded weapons on a damn near daily basis, yet no one in charge will even attempt to fix the problem. Too many families live in poverty and then have to deal with the added insult of being vilified for accepting handouts.

In the show, the longer Rick is exposed to this environment the more of his humanity erodes. The very meaning of decency changes in real time, and doing the right thing becomes an impossibility because the “right thing” loses all meaning. Rick, in an attempt to protect his family, has gotten dangerously close to turning into the very thing he guards against. After one hits a certain point, sometimes there’s no return.

As a frequent denizen of Internet comment sections, I have seen a lot of ugliness from a lot of people. There’s a certain segment of the population that is honestly looking forward to an end-of-days scenario like The Walking Dead. They secretly (and not-so-secretly) wish for armed revolution. For a chance to overthrow the government. For chaos and insurrection and every man for himself survival of the fittest. They pine for the day they can put their stockpile of weapons and their bunker to good use.

The storylines in The Walking Dead don’t scare me because they’re spooky fiction, but because of how quickly it could become reality. And I’m scared to death of raising kids in the thick of hopelessness and horror.

But hey, it’s just a TV show. Right?


StreamTeamBadgeI was compensated by Netflix for writing this post. Although I did not receive monetary compensation, I received free Netflix for a year and an iPad Mini. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.

Check out more great titles on Netflix!

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Superheroes, Toys, and Being Eaten Alive



No sooner had I opened the box of Playskool Heroes by Hasbro than my 7-year-old spotted the Rescue Bots box and demanded to tear into it immediately. His reasoning — because they are transformers that help people in need — made my heart soar.

Yes, I’m the obnoxious parent who seeks out toys that are not only fun, but morally defensible. So when Will and Sam wanted to play with HIGH TIDE (the bot in blue) on a rescue boat where they pretended they were part of some robotic Coast Guard, I happily obliged.

My wife and I drive home the need to think of others and always help people with our actions, but it’s a bonus when you can incorporate that into their play via toys. I smiled as they saved pretend sailors, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles from certain demise. Sure they fought about whether HIGH TIDE should be in bot form or submarine form and who should throw his life preserver out into the fake ocean, but their intent was still good.

Ditto for the Iron Man Armor Up Fortress.


This one is really cool because you can put Tony Stark on the platform, push a lever, and watch as he seamlessly snaps into his suit and becomes Iron Man. Sam, who is only 2, doesn’t know Iron Man’s backstory but Will is fluent in all things Avengers. Like me, he appreciates how Tony Stark is kind of a blowhard, but always does the right thing and saves people.

As he and Sam played with Rescue Bots and Iron Man, I silently patted myself on the back for being able to get them toys for the good guys. Toys that send a positive message. Toys featuring characters who seek to help people and make personal sacrifices for the well-being of others.

Even if their young minds couldn’t realize the lessons they were learning, I was confident it would sink in on a subconscious level. Like subliminal advertising, they would absorb the message without ever realizing they were being taught. Soon they’d be volunteering at soup kitchens on their own accord, signing up for Habitat for Humanity, and eventually winning the Nobel Peace Prize all because of the toys I –



And just like that, my lovely and selfless children made the eyes of the Indominus Rex from Playskool Heroes Jurassic World light up as his neck bent down to eat his poor, unsuspecting trainer. Swallowed him whole and didn’t think twice about it. Then they cheered and danced around his gnawed up body like characters from Lord of the Flies.

Oh well. Two out of three ain’t bad, and nothing can compete with awesome dinosaurs.


Many thanks to the awesome people at Playskool Heroes for giving me and the boys these toys free of charge. Although I was compensated for this post, all opinions are 100% my own.


(Ages 3-7 years | Available: Fall 2015)
Your kids will love the compartment below the hull that rotates out, as well as the sliding pieces that allow HIGH TIDE to transform and get ready to save people at sea. My kids also loved the crane that attaches to the front of the ship.

(Ages 3-7 years | Available: Fall 2015)
Remember how cool it is in the Iron Man movies when Tony Stark gets into the suit in real time? Well now your kids can relive that, complete with sound effects and flashing lights. It comes with two Iron Man suits and you can reconfigure the setup. Requires two AA batteries.

jurassicworld thumbJURASSIC WORLD TYRANNOSAURUS REX playset
(Ages 3 years & up | Available: Now)
You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs, and this Tyrannosaurus Rex doesn’t disappoint. While young kids should probably stay away from the Jurassic World movie, this bad boy is the ultimate dinosaur for preschool JURASSIC WORLD fans to track and capture! Features light-up eyes, a roaring action, and a poor trainer who doubles as lunch. Also requires two AA batteries.

Instagram: @Hasbro  •  Twitter: @HasbroNews  •  Facebook: Facebook.com/Playskool  • www.hasbrotoyshop.com

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Why Kids Need to Be Outdoors

trustees8If left unchecked, my 7-year-old would spend all day on the iPad playing Minecraft.

I don’t mean “all day” as hyperbole, either. I mean it in the most literal sense possible — he would spend an entire day glued to the iPad building his virtual Minecraft world without even peeking through the window at the ACTUAL world that awaits outside. Which is why, as his father, it’s my duty to step in and make sure he communes with nature — even when he doesn’t want to willingly.

I’m not a religious man, but the closest I come to feeling spiritual is when I’m out enjoying nature. When I’m camping or hiking, it fills my soul and suddenly I can breathe again. When I take the canoe out on the reservoir or trek through the woods to my favorite fishing hole, the pulled-in-all-directions frenzy of life gives way to the welcome tug on the end of my line, and I feel unburdened.

All of my childhood summers were spent outdoors at summer camp, playing Man-Hunt, Kick the Can, and swimming in a pond. And while it might be a different world in many respects today, I still want my sons to experience all nature has to offer. That’s why we buy an annual Massachusetts State Parks pass every year and explore our state’s many hidden gems. It’s why we put the canoe on top of the minivan and explore every pond, river, and lake with access.

And it’s why we take the kids to properties owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations.

You’ve probably visited a Trustees property and you don’t even know it. This group of 100,000 members maintains more than 100 properties — that’s 25,000 acres of land and hundreds of miles of trails — and seeks to protect the ecological treasures the Commonwealth offers.


We were lucky enough to attend an event in Ipswich at Appleton Farms, one of the country’s oldest continuously operating farms. It was our first trip as a family of five and it was outstanding, namely because it got the kids moving and excited to be outside. Not Tommy so much, but we’ll cut him some slack because he was only 2 weeks old.

Appleton Farms — a 1,000-acre distinctly New England farm with grazing livestock, perfect stonewalls, and rolling green fields — was just what the doctor ordered. The highlight, of course, were the cows, goats, horses, and turkeys roaming the grounds which my boys flocked to immediately.


But what I wasn’t expecting was their interest in cooking via the Appleton Cooks program.

The fine folks at Appleton Farm told us we were heading into the kitchen to do some cooking, and I immediately panicked because I figured there was no way my precocious 2-year-old was going to maintain anything resembling the necessary attention span to get through it.

We set up shop around a large counter and set out to make bread. All the kids had different items for which they were responsible, and Will took great care in measuring out the vegetable oil while Sam patiently waited to dump his flour in the mixing pan. Then, while the bread was baking, it was time to do something I had never done before — make butter.


The kids had a blast shaking the bottle of heavy cream until it turned into delicious butter right before our eyes. And much to my amazement, Sam was attentive and engaged the entire time thanks to the staff’s ability to hold his interest and work quickly.


The whole day was magnificent. The only thing is, if The Trustees hadn’t invited me to this I wouldn’t have even known it existed. And when I checked into it further, it turns out they’re making a push to include more families by holding events all over the state, which you can view by clicking here.

It’s an inexpensive way to reconnect kids with nature and it’s even educational to boot. So if you’re looking for a great way to have an affordable family outing (and even sneak a little learning in), visit The Trustees today and go explore the site closest to you.

Check out The Trustees on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more.

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